Reggaefest establishes itself as a summertime Bricktown tradition

click to enlarge Reggaefest establishes itself as a summertime Bricktown tradition
photo by M. Tim Blake
REGGAE FESTIVAL: Preston Hall of DF Dub singing. photo by M. Tim Blake

Reggae is not usually the first music genre people might associate with Oklahoma City, yet for more than two decades, fans have attended Bricktown Reggaefest, an annual blast of tropical fun and sun.

This year marks the 21st edition of the festival, which runs July 29-30 at the corner of Reno and Oklahoma avenues in Bricktown.

Reggae found its place in downtown because the often dance-friendly island pop naturally complements summertime. Brent Brewer, Reggaefest event promoter, said a key to its popularity is its overall feel-good vibe.

“The music is all about peace and love, and what better way than to celebrate it each year in downtown OKC,” Brewer said.

Admission to the outdoor fest is free and open to all ages. Music from local and regional bands begins at 5:15 p.m. and continues through midnight both days.

Brewer said Reggaefest regularly draws large crowds.

“We pride ourselves on bringing in the best regional reggae artists each year,” he said in an email interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “Seeing live reggae music is very limited in our market, and people look forward to it each year. We hit capacity in the venue every year.”

The first Oklahoma band to play at this year’s festival is The Suspects, a reggae-rock hybrid formed in 1996.

Ron Wallace, vocalist and guitarist for the band, said the festival is the best annual reggae event in OKC. He said The Suspects has performed at it for about seven years.

“There’s no drama; everyone’s there to have a good time and enjoy the vibes,” Wallace said.

The fest is fun, but outside the event, Wallace said it is sometimes frustrating watching reggae-rock music gain popularity in other parts of the world but not here.

“It’s taken over, but the music is really slow to catch up here,” he said. “We just kind of keep our course.”

The music lacks local media attention and fan support, he said, partially because of a lack of appropriate performance venues. But he remains optimistic that The Suspects can one day find a market because he is confident in the band’s music.

“Even if it’s not your favorite thing, you can be like, ‘Oh, I can still sit back and enjoy this drink and smoke and have a good time,’” Wallace said.

Brewer said one of the bands he’s most interested in seeing is Watusi, a Dallas-based act that has become a regional force and a Reggaefest mainstay. Its set is 10:30 p.m. July 30. Watusi’s history goes back more than 30 years, and it has played with a number of premiere acts, including Ziggy and Damian Marley. One Love Uprising, a Dallas band by way of the Caribbean’s St. Kitts, is the festival’s other headliner. It performs 10:30 p.m. July 29. Food trucks and craft beer will also be on deck to replenish guests.

Brewer said Reggaefest is open to anyone who likes to have a good time and enjoy warm island jams.

“We try to keep the concept as a fun reggae summertime party,” he said. “Regardless if you recognize the band name, you know it’s going to be great music and a great time.”

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Print headline: Island breeze; Reggaefest has become an annual bright spot in a still-growing local reggae scene.

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